You might recall that Facebook, or more specifically Sheryl Sandberg, had indicated that “they” had taken care of things in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. More specifically, who took the fall for the situation? Who they let go wasn’t something that they divulged, but now they’re making it known that the researcher who actually swept the user data was the “bad guy”, and not Facebook themselves. It was that particular employee who “allowed” it to happen. However, since then it’s becoming increasingly more clear that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
To date, other similar issues related to data have come forward. You might also remember the “special” feature designed for Facebook executives to be shielded from all of this by removing their side of the communications if they sent a message through Facebook messenger. That’s kind of shady, isn’t it? I mean, no one can access their data, but everyone else’s is fair game? But like I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re not sitting down, I think you should. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Facebook routinely gave access to your data, to approximately 60 device makers. But wait – remember when we talked about Cambridge Analytica a few months ago? What’s the one thing that we tried to drive home over and over again? Regardless of whether or not you authorized the personality test, if your friend did, then all of your data was exposed along with theirs. That’s right – this applies here as well. How does this even happen? I’m sure that’s a question that was posed in earlier posts, but the sad part is, there is no answer.
Facebook, of course, is downplaying the severity. They’ve suggested that the New York Times doesn’t understand how things work. Apparently, neither do I, because I don’t feel like this is a “normal” practice. I think that some data should remain private. That said, perhaps it’s your own fault for posting it on Facebook in the first place. But, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this was going to play out this way.
That’s not all folks. Of those 60 phone manufacturers, 4 of them are Chinese. This was confirmed yesterday when Senator Mark Warner asked Facebook whether they had been sharing users’ personal data with Chinese phone companies. Huawei is one of those companies, which makes me wonder if Donald Trump knew anything about this. You might also remember that he went on a rampage earlier in the year, suggesting that Best Buy and other retailers should stop carrying Huawei products because of the possibility that they might be bugged with Chinese surveillance software. Or did he know that Facebook had given Huawei access to this, because of his affiliation with Cambridge Analytica?
Facebook is saying that this practice is “routine” and thus it doesn’t require explicit user consent. What might be the worst thing about this is that they are also suggesting that if they did tell users about it, it would further exacerbate the division between the US government and Facebook. But why is a divisional rift between Facebook and the government even a concern? Or is it just the fact that it makes Facebook look like they’re breaching national security concerns. As I’ve mentioned, it’s no secret that lawmakers and other top officials have raised concerns about the security of Huawei products. Their fears are that somehow the Chinese government could access communications stored on devices or servers. I’m not saying I am on board with this idea, but it certainly paints a clearer picture when it comes to what the concerns are, to begin with.
Following this admission, Senator Werner indicated that this raises legitimate concerns. Again – I agree. In the past, it just sounded like Trump was paranoid, and while I agree that it might be a concern, I do wonder how much Trump knew and wasn’t telling us back when he started this witch hunt. That said, lawmakers definitely see these kind of “secret” agreements, as problematic. The number of issues that this could present to Facebook is enormous. There are possible consent issues with the FTC. There are possible issues with and for the FCC as well.
All of that said, this is potentially disastrous for Facebook. I’ve talked, at length about how things are changing for Facebook, but mostly from a social perspective. People have, and will continue to stop using the app. But that’s just one side of the bigger picture. And possibly the easier side to manage. Facebook is now potentially dealing with the fact that the government and even regulators are looking at them. Possibly even stepping in. Which means, there might be a social networking law coming into effect in the near future. With that, there are so many questions that I could pose and evaluate. How would it work? Would it be only for Facebook, or other platforms as well? Is it about communication? Is it about technology? Or, is it about protecting user data? I think that this one is going to take a while to settle, but overall, I still think that things are looking grim for Facebook.